The cued recognition task: dissociating the abrupt onset effect from the social and arrow cueing effect

Buyun Xu, James W Tanaka
Attention, Perception & Psychophysics 2015, 77 (1): 97-110
In a standard center cueing paradigm, participants are asked to identify a target object presented either to the left or the right of a center cue (e.g., eye gaze, head-turn, arrow, etc.). When the center cue is non-predictive (e.g., the arrow points to the correct location of the target only 50 % of the time), the target can still be identified faster at the validly cued location than at the invalidly cued location. However, the abrupt onset of an object can elicit reflexive attention orientation. It is important to investigate whether this abrupt onset effect interferes with the cueing effect elicited by center cues because this interference effect, if it exists, should be controlled for in order to improve the test validity of the center cueing task. In an attentional cueing paradigm, we examined how the abrupt appearance of an exogenous target object mitigates the influence of center cues involving either a head turn (Experiment 1) or an arrow (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, a non-predictive head-turn cue was followed by a target object (circle or square) presented in the left or right visual field. In the non-distractor condition, the target object was presented by itself. In this case, it is assumed that the sudden appearance of the target provides an orienting cue to the observer. To equalize the cueing effect of the target object, we presented a competing distractor object (triangle) in the opposite visual field to the target object. The participant's task was to categorize the target object as either a circle or square while ignoring the non-target triangle object in the opposite visual field. In Experiment 2, the arrow version of the cued recognition task was used, in which a single-headed arrow pointed to the object. The results from both experiments showed that both the non-predictive head-turn and arrow cues produced a reliable cueing effect in the distractor and non-distractor conditions. However, the magnitude of the cueing effect was greater in the distractor condition than in the non-distractor condition, suggesting that the abrupt onset of the target object acts like an exogenous signal, thereby reducing the impact of the internal head turn and arrow cues.

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